Experience and Winning in the National Basketball Association

When commenting on the ability of NBA teams it is commonplace to cite a young team’s inexperience as a negative and the experience of a veteran laden team as a positive. However, there is a lack of empirical investigation into the effects of player or coach experience on team performance. In this paper I analyze the effects of player, coach, and team experience levels on franchise postseason wins. This study uses hand gathered panel data detailing the 804 NBA seasons played by 30 NBA franchises between 1979 and 2008. I find that increased postseason player experience increases a team’s ability to make the playoffs while not increasing their ability to win in the playoffs. A coach’s postseason experience does contribute to a team’s ability to win in the playoffs. I also find that teammate experience, a proxy variable for team chemistry, significantly increases a team’s postseason success. I also offer plausible explanations for these effects. These results should be of interest to team executives, league analysts, and NBA commentators as it provides quantitative insight to an issue that has previously been based almost entirely on conjecture.

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